Respect Issues – It’s Not Cute When a Toddler Calls You By Your First Name

Of all my children, Catalina, my youngest, was the one child who exhibited disrespect through her words and actions. Sometimes, I would think, My goodness! Who spawned this child?


During one particular incident I was leaning over the kitchen island when she tried to ask me about eating chocolate. Since I was engaged in a conversation with one of my other children, I couldn’t attend to her immediately. Instead I carried on with my dialogue. So she came up to me, smacked my behind, and voiced out, “Joy! Get me chocolate!”

Standing at about 34 inches tall, this two year old of mine, with her beady black eyes and dark wavy hair has always packed in a lot of fire into her tiny frame. In this particular instance, she probably did not realize that she had done something very disrespectful. To everyone else who saw and heard what happened, it was very tempting not to break out into laughter. But all of us knew that she had “crossed the line.”
Edric also experienced something similar when she addressed him as “Psst, hoy! Edric!” while sitting on the toilet.

Both of us talked to her and explained why her words and actions were not acceptable. We demonstrated how to speak to us in a courteous and honoring way. And we also warned her that if she did this sort of thing again she would be disciplined for it.

It must have been a week later when I instructed her to do a task and she retorted with a “No!” This time her defiance was very clear. So I took her to our bathroom and reminded her that we had a rule about disrespect and she broke it. In this instance, she received a spanking. A big hug followed and a sorry from her.

She now thinks twice about dishonoring us. Still, it hasn’t been easy to train our youngest. She’s like a bull. A cute one. Very strong-willed. Intense. Easily upset. But no child is too tough inside to train or disciple. Some kids may take longer than others. However, God calls us, as parents to train our children in Proverbs 22:6, and we have to believe that He will provide the grace and ability to make it to happen.

Here are some practical tips we have picked up from God’s Word, other parents who have raised their children successfully, and our own experience with being parents to five kids:

  • Start disciplining and training early. The earlier, the easier it is to prevent bad attitudes and behaviors from becoming habits that are difficult to deal with.
  • Establish your authority. Edric and I love our kids and they know this. However, they also know that we are God’s appointed authority in their lives. He has entrusted to us the responsibility of training and teaching them to learn the importance of obedience and submission to the Lord by learning to obey and submit to us.Our kids have a lot of fun with us but they also have a healthy fear of defying us. They understand that we mean business. For example, we don’t ask your kids, “Would you like to go to bed now?” when we want them to go to bed. We tell them. “It’s time to go to bed.” Period. If they stick out their tongue, throw a fit, say no, or delay their obedience, then we follow through with a consequence.
  • A consequence can come in the form of spanking, withdrawal of privileges, confiscation of a toy or gadget, or a “time out.” We stick to spankings during the younger years which has worked very effectively. And no, our kids don’t have psychological issues as a result of this form of discipline. Whatever you decide to use as a form of discipline, be sure to follow through. Consistency is key.
  • As a wife, I also have to model respect to Edric so that my kids see what it looks like and I don’t undermine what we are trying to accomplish. They have to see that I also esteem my authority. Furthermore, Edric builds me up as their authority by reminding them that they are to honor me. He has had to sit our older boys aside one or two times and address the way they communicate with me. Very sternly, he let them know that they are not to use a tone that is impolite when talking to me.
  • Complement the discipline with instruction. For example, we explained to Catalina why it’s not okay to use our first names. We also taught her how to respond when we give her a command. She must reply, “Okay, mommy or okay, daddy,” with a good attitude. I actually wait for her to change her facial expression or her tone so that it’s joyful. I don’t let her run off with a grumpy and angry face. When it comes to the boys, Edric teaches them how to be gentlemen – to show deference for people. Sometimes it’s about holding the door open for ladies, shaking the hand of an adult, acknowledging a person when they ask a question, or minding their own noise pollution in public places or tight spaces.
  • Be on the same page with your spouse and people in the home. As husband and wife, Edric and I need to share the same principles for respect, and disciplining for disrespect. Since we have house help, we also ask our house help to let us know when our kids don’t treat them nicely or kindly. We let our kids know that they aren’t allowed to disrespect the house help. Another thing that has helped is welcoming the reports of friends or family members who tell us when our kids are misbehaving. We are on an all out war against disobedience and disrespect in the hearts of our kids so we need all the help we can get!
  • Enlist the aid of older siblings to be an example of right behaviors and attitudes. The power of older siblings to influence younger siblings is incredible.
  • Commend positive character. When Catalina obeys or responds to us with respect, I call it out and affirm her. She smiles bashfully but she loves to hear the encouragement and is more likely to repeat the right thing she did. I don’t just say, good job honey. I yell out, “Wow! I am so proud of you!”
  • Spend a lot of time with a child who is unruly, acting up, or having issues such as disrespect. This will allow you to find out what’s going on in their hearts and strategize how to train them and minister to them. Disrespect reveals a more serious heart issue. That’s what you want to uncover. For example, when my older son, Elijah starts talking to me with a tone that is condescending or sarcastic, I look at him and gently ask, “Is there something wrong?” and we find time to have a heart to heart conversation about what’s bothering him. Sometimes the problem is I have done something to offend him or hurt him so I need to apologize for this, or he feels stressed and pressured, or perhaps he is struggling with some inner conflict or sin that he needs to repent from. When the root issue is tackled, the right behavior follows.
  • Don’t model disrespect among family members. A child can easily mimic shouting, criticizing, negative talk, and bad attitudes from parents or siblings. If we don’t want our kids to treat us this way, we can’t give ourselves a reason to act that way towards one another either. We need to cultivate a culture of respect for each another in the home, even towards our own kids. This entails being polite when we talk to each other and to them, being appreciative and kind, and using the magic words, please and thank you. Let’s model what it’s like to be a blessing to the people so our kids can copy us.
  • Pray for tenderness in the hearts of our children. The bible says that the hearts of kings are like channels of water in the hands of God and he directs it where he wishes. Similarly, the hearts of our children are like channels of water in his hand. He can orient these little hearts in the direction they should go. I bank on this truth for my kids. Surely, God can take a hard heart and tenderize it!

In conclusion, let’s not lose hope, retaliate, or be intimidated when our children are rude or ill mannered, especially towards us. There’s no quick cure but with patience, gentleness, teamwork, consistency, positive modeling, and God’s help you and I can train our children to be courteous and honorable towards others. This is God’s will for them and it’s a goal that we can achieve by His grace!

Potty Training and Parenting

Finally, Catalina can go to bed at night without wearing diapers. She actually initiated this milestone on her own some days ago when she adamantly said, “I don’t want to wear diapers. Only panties.” This happened before she took her last pee of the evening, when she removed her pull-ups and chucked them into the trash can.

I was pleased with this display of independence. She stopped wearing diapers during the day at about 2.6 years old (later than my other four).

The approach was to mix in a good amount of positive pressure and training. We had to spend about two months teaching her how to use the toilet. Many mishaps occurred in the process! But then she got it! And I was able to save hundreds of pesos in diapers. Even if I put her diapers on at night, it was much cheaper than going through five or six diapers a day.

Now, she has declared herself liberated from night time diaper wearing. To keep from wetting the bed, we don’t give her anything to drink before she sleeps, and we make sure she pees before she is tucked in. After this, I will be training her how to use the potty on her own.

Every one of my kids reached this stage in different ways. It’s a comforting reminder that they get to their milestones eventually. Some take longer than others but they get there. One step at a time, that’s the key. Furthermore, I have to let my children bloom on their own, according to God’s time table.

Even if I am anxious to move them up the developmental ladder quuckly, I tell myself, RELAX. Whether it’s speaking, walking, sleeping on their own, eating on their own, potty-training, reading, writing, independent learning, athletic ability, the reality is that some things will not happen at the specific point in time that I want them to. I can do my best to create an environment that encourages my kids to grow and mature, but I also have to trust in God’s plan for them.

Trusting in God’s plan for them means I should avoid comparing my kids to each other and others. It also means appreciating my kids’ uniquenesses and enjoying where they are at. 

More importantly, it involves focusing on the right goals. My kids are not going to outsmart or outtalent every child out there. I think they are pretty amazing and special in their own way, just like all other children are. But parenting them is not a contest. I don’t have to prove anything through them and their skills…any skill they achieve or master. Neither should I feel guilt-ridden or wallow in discouragement when my best efforts at teaching them skills don’t produce the results I hope they will. 

Instead, I have to be FAITHFUL as a mom. I have to be present and intentional so I can help them discover their God-given limitations, strengths, personalities, and physical traits to accomplish His purposes. As I do so, I can relax, and leave the success part to God. He will define what that means for each of my kids. And His definition trumps all others’!


“Commit your actions to the LORD, and your plans will succeed.” Proverbs‬ ‭16:3‬ ‭NLT‬‬

“The mind of man plans his way, but the LORD directs his steps.” Proverbs‬ ‭16:9‬ ‭NASB

Letting Go

This is a new stage of parenting for me, parenting a young man, as my husband and I like to refer to our 13 year old son, Elijah. After he turned 13, it felt like parenting 101 for me all over again.

I don’t really know what I’m doing. It feels like navigating unchartered waters in a misty fog.

By God’s grace, Elijah has been a pleasant “teenager”…so far. This is possibly because he hasn’t actually gone through puberty yet. I’m expecting this to happen within 2016. He’s at the beginning stages of it. However, he hasn’t exactly shot up in height. His voice hasn’t cracked yet. And well, other things are pretty much the same.

As I anticipate the hormonal transformation he is going to go through, I’m preparing myself, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually to “let go” of the mothering bit. He’s not a baby anymore. And as my father in law lovingly reminded me, I’ve got to stop babying him.

I don’t really think I “baby” any of my kids, but if packing Elijah’s bag for his two week trip to the Holy Land counts, then yeah, I guess I do. I matched his outfits and oriented him on everything that was in his suitcase. I stayed up until late the night before he left to prepare his backpack with essentials.

It sounds like a form of babying, but letting him go on a trip without Edric and me accompanying him seems like a big step in the opposite direction. This is the first time any of our children have flown to another country without us.

The first night, I looked at his empty bed and felt like crying. His brothers were most certainly crying. I saw them in the dark, sitting on their beds doing so. When I flicked the light switch on, there were tears in both their eyes. They missed Elijah. I gave them big hugs and tucked them into bed, trying to offer words of confort I also needed to hear.

It was my parents’ idea to treat Elijah to a trip to the Holy Land with them when he turned 13. This is their plan for each grand child for as long as they can. So, the good news is he’s with adults whom I trust. My sister and her husband are on the same tour, which is doubly reassuring.

However, it took me a few days before the separation anxiety subsided. I am finally able to relax. Elijah doesn’t have a phone with roaming capacity so we have to rely on spotty Internet connection to communicate through his Ipad. I’ve talked to him briefly during the week and he already sounded like a more mature version of himself.

He was riding on the bus with a woman beside him during our first conversation and I was like, “Who is that girl beside you?” Eventually, he told me it was a young lady whom he shared the bus ride with.

When my dad jokingly said, “Yeah, he’s been talking to lots of girls,” I was like, “What? Really? What girls, Elijah?”

Elijah interrupted me quickly by saying, “Mom, you know I’m not at that stage yet.”

Oh okay. Whew. I know that. He’s not interested in girls yet, not in the romantic way, at least. (I suppose this is one of the benefits of homeschooling. Children stay children for longer. They aren’t influenced by the culture of school where people crush on one another early.)

The most challenging part for me about letting Elijah travel without us was getting over the worry. What if he gets lost? What if he gets abducted? What if he gets injured? I don’t think there is any mom out there who won’t be able to relate to my anxiety.

But I am trying to dwell on the positive aspects of this two-week separation. Elijah is making new friends; he is spending quality time with the Lord as he experiences the Bible come to life; he has to practice responsibility as he keeps track of his belongings; he has to mind his budget; and he is learning to look after himself. If climbing the tallest mountain in the Philippines with his dad was “Lessons on Manhood Part 1”, then this is “Lessons on Manhood Part 2.”

Yesterday, Elijah contacted us to show us the shofar he bought. It was a huge ram’s horn! And he told his dad that he got it for a great deal. I’m trying to picture Elijah bargaining with a Jew for this trumpet and I’m proud of him!

As for Edan, my second son, he has stepped into the “kuya” shoes. Today, I asked him to baby-sit his brother and sisters in the hotel room while Edric and I gave a three-hour seminar on homeschooling and parenting. I left my phone with him, but he didn’t have to SOS us at all. When I returned to pick them up the kids in the hotel room, they were entertained, busy, and having fun without us.

When food is left on the table, Edan is also our new garbage man. I usually ask Elijah to eat everyone’s leftovers but now it’s Edan’s turn. Somehow, this has increased Edan’s capacity to eat. He’s been eating a ton of food in the last week!

What about me? Elijah’s trip away is a reminder that God is the one who protects my children. I need to relax and trust Him. It’s not my control or my presence that keeps any of my kids safe. I do my part but their wellbeing is ultimately in God’s hands. So I don’t need to worry when I can’t keep an eye on them 24/7. God can do a much better job.

I am also learning not to be dependent on my kids for my sense of joy or purpose. The first day Elijah was away, I thought, Is this what it’s going to feel like when my children leave home one day? Ouch. It hurts!

I’ve invested so much time in my children’s lives because of homeschooling that I can’t imagine what it will be like when my kids go off to college or pursue careers that take them away from the Philippines. And eventually they may start their own families, too.

So I’m thankful for this foretaste of what it will be like to really let go. It’s allowing me to re-visit where my sense of identity lies. Yes, motherhood defines a big part of who I am, but my life can’t revolve around my children. They’ve been given to me for a season, to instruct, influence, minister to, and disciple. I’m certainly going to make the most of this time while their hearts are malleable and responsive to me (and Edric). But one day, they will have to stand on their own and make choices without mom and dad around. And I will have to deal with the void their absence in the home leaves behind and look forward to how God will use me in another season of my life.

If I’m to be fruitful when I’m an older woman…fruitful in the purposeful sense because I’m fulfilling God’s plan for my life…then I have to be anchored in the Lord. I am a follower of Jesus first before I am a mom.

“Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me. I am the vine you are the branches; he who abides Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.” (John 15:4-5)

And hey, no matter what, I will still be mom to my kids. Someday, my children may not need me the same way they need me now, but there will always be a big space in my heart reserved just for them and the door to it will remain open.

Singer and songwriter Mark Shultz wrote When You Come Home years ago which used to make Elijah tear as a younger child. He would tell me to stop the song because he couldn’t listen to it. It’s such a tender song. In the end, the mom in the story passes away but she reminds her son that she will be waiting for him in heaven. Elijah never liked to think of being separated from me when he was little. And now he is off on his own!

I haven’t listened to the song in a long time, but it makes sense to include it here as I ponder upon this idea of letting go. (I’ve been in a sentimental mood since Elijah left so you get another emotional song in this post!)

What’s my take home from this song? Let go as your children grow up and grow past needing you, but always keep your arms open.

When You Come Home

My first day of recess
They all laughed at me
When I fell off the swing set
And scraped up my knee

The nurse called my Momma
To say I’d be late,
And when she gave me the phone
I could hear Momma say
“I’m so sorry, son.
Oh I think you’re so brave.”

And she was smiling when she said:

When you come home
No matter how far,
Run through the door
And into my arms;
It’s where you are loved
It’s where you belong,
And I will be here
When you come home

I waved good-bye through the window
As I boarded the plane,
My first job in Houston
Was waiting for me

I found a letter from Momma
Tucked in my coat
And as I flew down the runway
I smiled when she wrote:
I’ll miss you, son,
You’ll be so far away

But I’ll be waiting for the day

When you come home
No matter how far,
Run through the door
And into my arms
It’s where you are loved,
It’s where you belong
And I will be here
When you come home

Well, I don’t think
She can hear you now,
The doctor told me
Your mother is fading,
It’s best that you leave

So I whispered,
I love you
And then turned away.
But I stopped at the door
When I heard Momma say,
I love you, son,
But they’re calling me away

Promise me before I go

When you come home,
No matter how far,
Run through the door
And into my arms;
It’s where you are loved,
It’s where you belong,
And I will be here
When you come home,
When you come home.

It’s Time to Play!

“Many of our greatest thinkers locate their capacity for original and profound thought in their imaginative abilities, first developed through creative play in early childhood.” (Pittsburg Post Gazette, August 2004)

Interestingly, “Kids and animals that do not play when they are young may grow into anxious, socially maladjusted adults.” (Scientific American)

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A lot of times we rob our children of the opportunity to play when we overschedule their lives or cram it full with academics and enrichment activities. A poll by HealthAmerica from 2006 revealed that out of 882 children, 41 percent between the ages of 9 and 13 felt stressed all of the time or most of the time, because they have too much to do. Of those same children surveyed, 78 percent wished they had more free time. (Ahchealthnews )

Although we may mean well as parents, we need to consider whether our children are getting sufficient time to enjoy the wonders of childhood. Do they get to play?

Play can be structured and unstructured. Structured play is defined by set goals and objectives determined by an adult. It is adult-directed. (For example, when I teach my child how to build a tower with blocks and instruct them which piece to put where.) In contrast, unstructured play has no specific goal or objective determined by an adult. It is child-directed. Give your child blocks and see what he or she does with them.

Both types of play are important. Structured play is beneficial when your aim is to teach your child new concepts, skills, and reinforce them (colors, shapes, numbers, letters, phonetic sounds, reading, etc.) But unstructured play is beneficial for the application and manipulation of those concepts and skills – to demonstrate and practice creativity…and, well, just enjoy being a kid!

Another area where we may short-change our children is when we buy them the wrong kinds of toys. Since our children were very little, my husband and I agreed that we would buy our kids “good toys,” and avoid battery-operated toys as much as possible. Some people still gift our kids with these sort of toys but we try not to purchase them ourselves.

“A good toy is 10 percent toy and 90 percent child,” says Joan Almon, director of the U.S. Alliance for Childhood. “Beware of killjoy toys. Give children simple play materials such as logs and stones, cloths and ropes, and they will create worlds.”

“Play starts with a box, with the discovery of pots and pans. If everything has bells and whitles and does everything for them from the time a child is very young (his) own imagination is not going to be very stimulated,” says Stevanne Auerbach, a.k.a Dr. Toy and author of Smart Play, Smart Toys: How to raise a child with high PQ.

Some of examples of good toys include:

  • Empty boxes (shoe boxes, big boxes, etc.)
  • Toilet paper rolls
  • Tissue paper
  • Fabric
  • Rocks
  • Sticks
  • Sand or mud
  • Trees
  • Leaves
  • Puddles or water
  • Bugs
  • Rope or string
  • Dolls for girls
  • Dishes and tea sets
  • Blocks
  • Legos
  • Playdough or clay
  • Marbles
  • Magnets
  • Old clothes for dressing up
  • Paper, drawing materials, paint, etc.

My kids go crazy over things like empty boxes and string! This afternoon my girls were running around with sticks, and my older daughter said, “Look, it’s an airplane!”, as she made the stick fly through the air.

So much learning happens through play. It may not be as quantifiable as results on a test paper, but rest assured, children are picking up something valuable.

“Play is how children begin to understand and process their world. Children’s play unlocks their creativity and imagination and develops reading, thinking, and problem solving skills as well as further develops motor skills. It provides the base foundation for learning.” Angie Rupan, Program Coordinator for Child Development Center in South San Francisco, CA and early childhood educator for over 20 years.

When we play with our kids, or when children play with one another, their language skills are developed. They pick up vocabulary, learn how to express themselves in ways that others can understand, and decode the grammatical structure of the English language without even realizing it!

When children are given unstructured play-time, their creativity sores. They learn how to be imaginative, invent, solve problems, build, and entertain themselves without being dependent on others to tell them what to do or how to think. Even simple toys like building blocks enhances mathematical ability in children.

My kids were trying to figure out how to build a suspension bridge the other day. They had to think through the physics involved to make this bridge.

Activities like drawing, painting, stringing, folding, cutting, squeezing dough or clay and molding it are all beneficial for fine motor skills. And activities that involve running, jumping, climbing, kicking, and the like will build muscular strength and endurance which are necessary for more difficult tasks that require body coordination.

What’s our part in all of this as parents? How do we ensure that learning happens when our children play? The following elements must be present:

  • Children feel free to express themselves
  • Children’s opinions are valued
  • Children believe they are unconditionally loved and accepted
  • Children are allowed to fail and learn from their failures
  • Children are allowed to experiment and try new ideas
  • Children are encouraged to consider more than one solution to a problem
  • Discipline is firm but not punitive
  • Parents accept some mess
  • Parents appreciate what their children accomplish and achieve
  • Parents communicate confidence in their children’s abilities
  • Parents demonstrate their own creativity and flexibility
  • Children are exposed to storybooks and storytelling
  • Make-believe is encouraged
  • Children have regular contact with parents and other children (siblings and cousins count, too!)

I don’t know what your family culture is like, but I hope you will prioritize playtime. It’s a necessary and fundamental part of childhood, and it’s our responsibility as parents, to provide a home environment where play is valued and encouraged. It’s time for our kids to play!

Saying Goodbye to Seasons of Motherhood

I finally weaned Catalina two months ago. It was kind of a forced wean because Edric and I traveled to Dubai and Abu Dhabi for seven days which left her no option but to take the bottle. But like all my other kids who breastfed for a long time, she resorted to milk in a cup instead.

When I came back, she still asked to nurse and I tried but there wasn’t any more milk. Of course I could have produced it again had I let her keep latching on. But at two and a half years old I also figured it was time to move on. She breastfed primarily for comfort, not for sustenance. 

Still, she made attempts so I would explain, “Mommy has no more milk.” This answer didn’t always satisfy her so I had to add, “Mommy can always hug you and hold you. I will always love you.”

  
I thought I accepted the weaning as the right thing to do until I broke down one Sunday afternoon. Catalina saw me and reacted, “Why? why?” And then she pretended to cry, maybe to emphathize with me or maybe to make fun of me. (Knowing her personality, it may have been the latter!)

It finally dawned on me that breastfeeding babies has come to an end. Sure, okay, technically, I can have more kids. But I may not, and apart from that, it’s dealing with the reality that Catalina is “growing up.” She isn’t a baby anymore. In fact, she told me she’s “a little lady” because that’s the term Edric uses to describe her. 

Sometimes, I want my little baby back! I miss breastfeeding her to sleep, being able to comfort her when she is scared, tired or needy, the physical bonding we share that is so tender and special, and how happy and satisfied she looks when she is nursing. (It’s always difficult for me to wean my babies.)

Older moms used to tell me things like, Cherish every moment with your babies, you will miss this. I would look at them while holding an infant in my arms or breastfeeding one, tired as heck, and their advice seemed distantly relevant to me. But now, from the vantage point of having nursed five babies, survived the sleepless nights, and moved past the feeling of being “tied-down” by the responsibilities of caring for infants, I look back and think…they were right. They were all right! It all came and went so quickly, so soon. And, sigh, I miss it all.

Those difficult seasons made me a mother. Those trying nights of waking up to comfort my babies allowed me to discover the amazing resilience we have as women. And those challenging moments of teaching my babies how to communicate, walk across a room, feed themselves, and learn other survival skills they would need as little humans made me believe that God gave moms a supernatural patience and grace to persevere and repeat ourselves a thousand times! 

Being a mother has been such an adventure, and it continues to be. I’ve come to accept that it’s always going to be hard to say goodbye to each season of motherhood because I am a fully invested mom. Whether it’s the first few months of caring for a newborn, breastfeeding through the infant stage and beyond, raising wiggly toddlers, homeschooling young children, or navigating the teen years (this is a recent one), there will be tearful passages and triumphant ones that make up the sweet song of motherhood. Like me, there’s no committed mom out there who will not feel the sorrow of leaving one stage and entering another.  

So I must move forward with gratitude, embracing the experiences that my growing children will live through with me. It may be goodbye to having babies but it’s also a big hello to exciting times ahead. 

For instance, I am learning to appreciate Catalina and love her in new ways. She sleeps in the girl’s room with Tiana but sometimes, during the wee hours of the morning she will sneak into our room, inch into a space beside me on the bed and quietly whisper, “Can you hug me, mommy?” 

When I am dead tired, I drape an arm over her body to make it seem like it’s a hug, but this doesn’t count for her. She will insist, “Can you face me?” Then she will press her cheek to mine and close her eyes. I will smell her soft skin and feel the warmth of it against mine. Soon after she will doze off peacefully and I will smile…partially because I can go back sleep, too, but more so because this is its own kind of special. Breastfeeding was wonderful but this is better. This is a new season to treasure.

  

Courageous Caitie’s Legacy

I have been scrolling through messages and posts about Courageous Caitie and it’s difficult to swallow the ending that today gave us. She passed away this morning after her platelet count dropped to 1 and her oxygen levels were critical.

When I found out, an hour later, on my way to the bathroom to take a break from my homeschooling, I was in shock. Maybe a part of me expected the worst given the recent updates on Caitie’s page. But a part of me also hoped for the miracle we all did, the chapter in her story we all prayed for – supernatural, physical healing.

Wouldn’t that have been a testimony?! Wouldn’t that have brought glory to the Lord, a triumph to give the watching world cause to believe that God answers the prayers of his children, especially those who love and follow Him?

I really hoped for this. I don’t think I had as much faith as Caitie’s mom did to believe that it could actually happen, but I certainly hoped it would. Several exchanges between Tine (Feliz) Lucas and myself through Viber brought more encouragement to me than my attempts at sending verses and warm messages did for her.

She always concluded our online conversations with a firm belief that God’s promises of healing in His Word were spoken just for Caitie. But I also know she felt like giving in to the fear and the doubt many times. Doctor Joy, Caitie’s pediatrician, and Tine’s sister, Jen, are friends of mine and they told me she wasn’t always feeling strong. They would ask for prayer support. And whenever possible, I sought updates from them, not wanting to bother Tine constantly because I knew she was dealing with a lot. Yet, even Tine’s vulnerability to those closest to her and the glimpses of it she revealed online sounded like strength to me. What mom could’ve survived the months she did, in the way she did? She is a hero to me. So is Jay Jay.

They became heroes to all of us. I don’t know if I could have posted updates and prayer requests as often as they thought to. But it was their faithful chronicles of Caitie’s journey that invited people to be a part of it. Somehow, even if Caitie’s condition baffled everyone because of its complexity and rarity, we all found something familiar in her life’s story that resonated with us.

As a mom, my heart ached and broke each time I saw Tine’s posts, especially the ones that desperately sought prayer. And the photos…oh, the photos! They were honest and tender, and sometimes too difficult to look at.

This afternoon, I find myself confronted with the reality of Caitie’s passing and there’s no way to dismiss it without considering the gravity of what just happened. Courageous Caitie, the little spirited girl whom thousands cheered on and supported through prayer, giving, fundraising, and writing about, breathed her last in the arms of her loving parents. She inspired the best in all of us as we saw her fight hard till the very end.

I sat around the table at lunch, shortly after I found out she died, my children’s laughter invading the grief in an almost assaulting way. They were teasing one another. I picked up Catalina who reached up to be held and put her on my lap. This looked too pretty a picture compared to the one I just saw – Jay Jay and Tine cradling Caitie’s still body.

   
 The tears began to fall. I wanted to appreciate that my children were living, breathing, and eating their lunch, but I also wanted to be alone for a while.

“Why are you crying, mom?” Elijah asked.

I excused myself from the table and hid in the guest room, leaving the kids to their bantering and teasing. Catalina followed me, of course. She always does. I hugged her tightly. Caitie wasn’t much older than she was.

Catalina traced the line of my tears and also asked, “Why are you crying?”

“Someone’s baby died.” This was the easiest way for me to explain it to her.

“Oh, someone died?” She looked concerned. If she only understood.

Someone died, Lord. Not just anyone, too. After all that fighting, why not the gift of a miracle? It feels like a cosmic let down to everyone who was looking on.

I struggled to grasp God’s plan in all of this, for Tine and Jay Jay’s sake, especially.

As they pack up Caitie’s belongings, thumb through her art work and homeschool work, and look on the empty bed where her form once was, I know it’s going to hurt like heck. I know they believe that God has a plan because they want to trust Him, but I also know that their memories will cling to images of Caitie and their hearts will long for her. They will feel the void and the loss like no one else will, and I can’t imagine what that will be like.

At a time like this, it may seem insensitive to mouth out bible passages, but I find that it is God’s very Word that fills in the space which Caitie’s death has left behind. Right now that space looks like a dark, empty hole into which faith might collapse. It’s easy to doubt the nature of God as loving, good, and sovereign when a parent loses their child.

A few months ago, I read Philip Yancey’s book called Why? The Question that Never Goes Away. He wrote, “From Jesus I learn that God is on the side of the sufferer. God entered the drama of human history as one of its characters, not with a display of omnipotence but in a most intimate and vulnerable way.”

He also quoted poet Christian Wiman who, in his meditation, My Bright Abyss, made this statement. “I am a Christian because of that moment on the cross when Jesus, drinking the very dregs of human bitterness, cries out, My God, my God, why has though forsake me?…The point is that he felt human destitution to its absolute degree; the point is that God is with us, not beyond us, in suffering.”

Yancey goes on to say, “Christ is God crying I am here. Because of Jesus, we have the assurance that whatever disturbs us, disturbs God more. Whatever grief we feel, God feels more. And whatever we long for, God longs for more.” (pg. 54 – 56)

God doesn’t always give us the miracle we hope for on this earth. But it isn’t because He doesn’t care. He sent His son, Jesus Christ to enter into our pain. The book of Isaiah described Christ as “despised and rejected – a man of sorrows, acquainted with deepest grief. We turned our backs on him and looked the other way. He was despised, and we did not care. Yet it was our weaknesses he carried; It was our sorrows that weighed him down. And we thought his troubles were a punishment from God, a punishment for his own sins! But he was pierced for our rebellion, crushed for our sins. He was beaten so we could be whole. He was whipped so we could be healed. All of us, like sheep, have strayed away. We have left God’s paths to follow our own. Yet the Lord laid on him the sins of us all.” (Isaiah 53:2-6)

Furthermore, our understanding of healing is limited to physical relief and restoration. These are earth-bound fixes. Yet God’s plan for healing finds its truest meaning in eternity. When Christ died and rose again, He conquered death. Therefore those who believe in Him will also conquer death.

“Behold, I tell you a mystery; we will not all sleep, but we will all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet; for the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. For this perishable must put on the imperishable, and this mortal must put on immorality. But when this perishable will have put on the imperishable, and this mortal will have put on immorality, then will come about the saying that is written, ‘Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?’ The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law; but thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” 1 Corinthians 15:51-57

Caitie loved Jesus. Even in her young age, she understood that He died for her sins and she gave her life to Him. She was courageous for Him. I have no doubts that Caitie is alive and well in heaven with the Lord. The miracle of her story was not that doctors cured her cancer but that Jesus gave her life – eternal life.

It’s not coincidental that Caitie passed away right after the week when people gave most attention to Jesus Christ and celebrated His resurrection. Even in her death, she testifies to what He said, “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in me shall live even if he dies, and whoever lives and believes in me shall never die.” (John 11:25-26)

What a sweet promise to revive our crushed hope. This is not the end of Caitie’s story, as it isn’t the end of God’s story for each of our lives. He is a redeemer and he never wastes our pain.

Yancey told the story of Jerry Sittster, author of the books A Grace Disguised and A Revealed. He was a professor of Whitworth College who lost his wife, mother, and four-year old daughter in a tragic car accident when a drunk driver hit them. In A Grace Disguised, which speaks of what happened, he composed, “The loss brought about by the accident had changed my life, setting me on a course down which I had to journey whether I wanted to or not. I was assigned both a tremendous burden and a terrible challenge. I faced the test of my life. One phase of my life had ended; another, the most difficult, was about to begin.”

Twenty years later, in A Grace Revealed, he surmised, “Eventually, we will live happily ever after, but only when the redemptive story ends, which seems a long way off. In the meantime, you and I are somewhere in the middle of the story, as if stuck in the chaos and messiness of a half-finished home improvement project. We might have one chapter left in our story, or we might have fifty. We could experience more of the same for years to come, or we could be on the verge of change so dramatic that if we knew about it we would faint with fear or wonder, or perhaps both. We could be entering the happiest phase of our lives, or the saddest. We simply don’t know and can’t know…In my mind there is only one good option: we must choose to stay in the redemptive story. However unclear it might be to us, we can trust that God is writing the story.” (Pg. 61 – 62)

We do not know the course our lives will take on this earth, nor do we know if our children will be spared from the ills that are in this fallen world. Like the Lucas family, we may face similar trials. However, we can know the Divine Architect who has a master plan for everything we go through. His redemptive story for you and for me is that we experience the love and grace He displayed through His Son, Jesus Christ, and enter into a personal relationship with Him that will continue for all eternity.

On Courageous Caitie’s timeline either Tine or Jay Jay wrote, “I miss you Caitie. But I’m glad were able to give you great family memories here on earth.” However, beyond the earthly memories of family and the precious moments they shared together, I do believe the most important gift that Tine and Jay Jay gave to Caitie was the gift of knowing Christ. Indeed, they did the one most loving thing they could ever do for her as parents – they prepared Caitie for her eternal home.

I was reminded that this is the most loving thing that we can do for the people we love, too. We do not know how long we will have to love the people God has surrounded us with. Let us make Caitie’s life count by passing on the miracle of Christ’s love to our spouses, our children, our families and friends. Caitie fought hard to teach us this and she died to remind us not to hold back, waste time, squander opportunities, or trade the lesser things for the greater things.

Thank you, Jay Jay and Tine for sharing Courageous Caitie’s journey with us. You raised a beautiful, special girl who lived for an exemplary purpose — to bring the hearts of the broken to the healing arms of Christ, where she is smiling, waiting there for you. 

  

 

Be the Supermom God Has Called You to Be

The landscape of motherhood has changed significantly in the last decade.

Moms today…
• Multi-task on their smartphones (Pinterest, Instagram, online parenting communities)
• 61% of moms 18 to 32 are unmarried
• 64% say that parenting has become more competitive – pressure to be the “perfect” mom.
• Perfect means organized, educated, fit, focused on family, has a great job & able to cook.
• Will spend for organic/natural foods and products for their children. SOURCE: mothermag.com/millennial-mom-statistics

Interestingly, an article by livescience.com revealed that one of the distinct ways motherhood has changed over time is that today, moms feel a whole lot of guilt. When moms stay at home they fear they aren’t contributing enough financially or they won’t be respected. When they go to work they worry about neglecting their children. Today’s moms also have more to do and less time to do it. As a result, we are more stressed about wanting to have it all. Trying to be supermoms makes us super crazy.

As I begin this entry I want us to lay aside the anxieties that loom over us and look at the mom God has called you and me to be. Who is this mom? And what is her purpose? What really makes her super? (I’m doing this as a cathartic experience for myself, because I need this!) 

Unless we settle these questions, we will continue to pursue an image of motherhood that is based upon the world’s standards of success and not on God’s standards for us. We will be tempted to compare our children with others and derive our sense of security and worth from the way they perform or what they achieve. 

Some months ago, my kids joined a basketball program and they weren’t the superstars. Initially, I wasn’t surprised because they hardly played basketball. Yet, as I watched their session, it became very obvious that their cousins outshone them in every aspect of balling.

When I got home, I complained to Edric, “You need to spend time playing basketball with the boys. They don’t know how to play. This is your department. You and I are athletes but they are terrible at basketball. How can this be? We need to do something!” 

He looked at me like I was a raging demoniac. Where was this ugly competitiveness coming from?
I wanted our kids to be good basketball players for pride’s sake. Furthermore, I blamed Edric for not being intentional about training them at home. He didn’t appreciate how I was pinning this on him and reacted to me, which resulted in a conflict.

Afterwards, I realized that my perspective was wrong. My disquiet and anxiousness about their ability to perform athletically were rooted in jealousy and insecurity. I didn’t want their cousins to be superior to them in sports.

Colossians 1:17 says, “He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.” As a mom I need to remember that in Christ, I hold together. When I don’t keep Him as my anchor, I end up wounding those I love with my negative perspectives, words and actions.

Motherhood isn’t a contest. My children aren’t trophies. The first thing I need to understand about motherhood is the word STEWARDSHIP. I don’t own my kids. They were entrusted to me, to Edric, so that we might raise them in accordance with God’s will and purposes. The Bible says, “For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities – all things have been created through Him and for Him.” Colossians 1:13-14

My fourth child, Tiana, put it very well when I asked her one morning, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” She answered with conviction, “I will be whatever God wants me to be.” As a five year old she understood that she belongs to the Lord.

Since my children were made for the Lord, stewardship means…

…teaching my children to love and honor God with all that they are. (Deuteronomy 6:5-7)
…disciplining and correcting my children when they exhibit attitudes and behaviors that do not conform to His character. (Proverbs 22:6, Proverbs 19:18, Proverbs 22:15)
…protecting my children from influences or experiences that harden their heart towards Him or lead them away from Him. This includes minding my own example to them. (Psalm 119:9, 1 Corinthians 6:18, Proverbs 13:20, 1 Corinthians 15:33, Mark 9:42, 1 Corinthians 11:1)
…identifying the gifts and bents of my children and helping them to develop these for God’s glory. (1 Corinthians 10:31)
…giving my children a vision for their lives – how God can use them to accomplish His will and purposes. (Proverbs 29:18, Romans 8:28, Jeremiah 29:11)

It is my God-given purpose to raise my children this way — a responsibility that I cannot delegate to others or pursue half-heartedly. I am accountable to the King of Kings and Lord of Lords for this sacred trust.

“For it is written, ‘As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall give praise to God.’ So then each one of us will give an account of himself to God.” Romans 14:11-12

Someday, when I stand before the Lord, I will give an account of my role as mom. What did I do with the children He gave me to raise for Him? Will I be found faithful?

This doesn’t mean that my children must turn out perfect under my watch. At the end of the day, my children are also accountable to God and they must make the choice to follow Him on their own. However, I do believe that God will look at the years that He gave me to teach and train them, and ask me what I did with those years. Did I do my best to build the right foundation in my children’s hearts and minds — a foundation that will prepare them to love, obey, and follow Him?

The apostle Paul said in 1 Corinthians 3:10-12, “According to the grace of God which was given to me, like a wise master builder I laid a foundation, and another is building on it. But each man must be careful how he builds on it. For no man can lay a foundation other than the one which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.”

Our task is a supernatural one, which can seem daunting and intimidating, but before I end this entry, I want to remind all of the mothers out there that God loves you and me. We are precious to Him. It’s important to let this reality invade our hearts completely because motherhood requires us to be sacrificial and resilient. We aren’t fit for the task when we meet each day empty and wanting, or oppressed by our own emotional and spiritual issues.

There was a time when I was overwhelmed with the responsibilities of mothering five children. It felt like I was in a perpetual season of imperfection. My homeschool schedule was shot and my children’s academic progress was snail-like. I ended each day tired and lost. However, God brought me back to the truth that I needed to hear, the truth that calmed the turbulence inside me. He loves me. He is for me. He will uphold me.

“See how very much our Father loves us, for he calls us his children, and that is what we are…” 1 John 3:1

I have found that one of the best ways to encourage my children when they are feeling down, discouraged or frustrated is to remind them that I love them. I love them no matter what, just as they are. Similarly, but in an infinitely more amazing way, God loves you and me, even in our imperfection. We don’t need to be supermoms to be acceptable to Him. What a relief! 

Why should this matter so much? God will equip you and me to be the moms we need to be. As we seek His will for our children and parent them accordingly, Luke 12:29-31 assures us with this image of our Heavenly Father: “And don’t be concerned about what to eat and what to drink. Don’t worry about such things. These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers all over the world, but your Father already knows your needs. Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and he will give you everything you need. Luke 12:29 – 31

  What a comfort to have a daddy we can always run to when we mess up, feel inadequate, fall apart, or need encouragement. He’s not just any daddy, too. He is all-poweful, all knowing, all-present, and all-amazing! 

He’s saying to us, “Don’t worry. Seek after me and I will take care of you.”

As we focus on being faithful stewards of our children, let’s not forget that we have a faithful Father who is committed to enabling and empowering us. We have a high calling to fulfill, but we are never alone as we do so. God puts the “Super” in all of us! 

Keep Praying for Your Kids

Spending time with my kids is always a highlight of my day, especially when I have one on one time with them. Today I focused on Elijah. It’s fun to engage him in dialogue because he is expressive and enjoys talking. Plus, he is my eldest so we can discuss things like “adults.”

  After homeschool coop this morning, I took him to the American Eye Center in Shangrila Mall to see a pediatric ophthalmologist. (Thank you to everyone who gave me recommendations on Facebook!)

   

 We chatted on the way, and he shared with me how his fasting week went. Last week, our church had a week-long prayer and fasting event which our family and kids participated in. Elijah chose to fast from gadgets, sweets, and snacking. According to him, avoiding gadgets liberated him from a secret addiction he was beginning to have.

He confessed that using computers and iPads to educate himself on how to program and do coding pulled him into a world that cut him off from reality. In his own words he said, “I knew it was becoming unhealthy for me to be on my devices but I made two excuses. The first was ‘dad is busy working so I don’t have anything fun to do.’ Second, ‘it’s not bad because I don’t play games.'”

He explained that participating in the fast allowed him to use his time in different ways — reading books again, playing with his siblings, praying for others, and having quality bible reading time. The first few days were challenging but as the week progressed, he felt like a bondage was broken. And to think that his experience with gadgets was more educational in nature!

Yet, he admitted to me that there’s something about computers that entices him so much he can think of little else when his usage of them increases. As an older child, I check on him once in a while but I also know he has to come to his own conclusions about computers. Thankfully, the fast afforded him perspective. He was able to think objectively about being on gadgets. He even said, “My brain was releasing serotonin every time I got on a device!”

I laughed when he said this but I can believe it. Our brain naturally does this whenever we derive pleasure and joy from any experience. For my son, Elijah, it happens to be his interest in technology. He is deeply fascinated by the world of computers which can be a good thing. But I praise God for speaking to him about its potential dangers, too. He is not interested in gaming or Internet surfing or social media but he knows that the issue is about the time he dedicates to experimenting on computers. He likes learning about how computers work, how to jailbreak devices, build websites and apps…that sort of thing.

His proposal, therefore, is to avoid being on a computer or gadget as much as possible during the week. Originally, this was our house rule. But last year, during the latter months, I was more relaxed. The kids would use devices for educational purposes only. However, Elijah was susceptible and more vulnerable to gadget-addiction than my younger kids were. So this hidden struggle developed in his heart.

Thankfully, a big change has been Edric’s availability. Since he stopped his morning show on ANC, he has dedicated more quality moments to share with our sons — playing games, doing puzzles, and getting them outdoors. Elijah told me this made a significant difference in subduing his desire to fiddle with gadgets. (The presence of a father does wonders!)

  Elijah will be 13 next month and I have been praying that He will develop positive habits and use his time wisely. I do believe that fasting week made Elijah more concerned and aware of his spiritual struggles. But his revelation also affirmed the need to keep praying for my kids.
Our greatest work, as parents, is on our knees, interceding for our kids. Someone once told me that parenting must be done on our knees. It’s so true! The battle for our children’s hearts is a spiritual one.

I spend a lot of my time with my kids because they are homeschooled. Edric and I are intentional about disciplining, training, and teaching our kids. Yet all these efforts will fall short if we do not beseech God for his enabling and wisdom, if we do not pray for our children’s protection and for God’s love to grow in their hearts so that it transforms them from within. Therefore the encouragement I received from my afternoon with Elijah was to pray for him and all my children. Only God can effectively bring to light the concealed parts of their hearts and convict them to choose attitudes, behaviors, perspectives, friends, habits, and activities that are good and pleasing to Him.

Here’s an example of how I pray for my kids (not including the specifics for each of them.) Feel free to personalize it and improve on it for your own kids:

“Lord, I pray for each of my kids to love you with all their heart, soul, mind and strength. Help them to seek after you and desire to know you. Put in them a passion for your Word. Open their eyes to understand spiritual truth and shield them from the lies of the evil one. Let them develop God-honoring convictions about the friends they should choose, habits they should form, and the use of their time. Prepare their future spouses to be God-fearing and committed Christ-followers. Safeguard their innocence and purity. Keep them from unhealthy addictions. Instill in them Christ-like character and teach them to be spirit-filled. Make them bold and courageous for what is true and right. Give them a compassion for the lost. Let them love one another and look out for each other. Help them to love and respect us and to submit to authority. Let them know they are equally loved and special to us. Allow them to develop their gifts and talents for your glory. Equip them to be influencers and leaders who will make a difference for you in this world. Let their hearts be teachable and humble. Give them a love for learning. May our daughters be beautiful inside and out, and our sons handsome and masculine — men and women of stature. Bless them with musical and artistic talent, and let your favor be upon them. Make them mighty in spirit and wise. Protect them from Satan, his demons and evil spirits, malicious people, robbers, kidnappers, abusers, natural calamities, accidents, sicknesses, and sin. Do not let them fall away from you. Let them be faithful to you till the end of their days. May they live for you and glorify you with all that they are. In Jesus’ name, Amen.”

I want to keep praying for my kids this way and even more intentionally as they grow older. Each one of them, like Elijah, has their weaknesses, and these become more apparent as they mature. Sometimes it’s such a temptation to be anxious. However, when I start to feel worried, it is prayer that allays my fears. I remember WHO I am entrusting my children to. Let me end this with an amazing description of who God is. We can replace each “you” and “your” with the names of our kids:

“He will not allow your foot to slip; He who keeps you will not slumber. Behold, He who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep. The LORD is your keeper; The LORD is your shade on your right hand. The sun will not smite you by day, nor the moon by night. The LORD will protect you from all evil; He will keep your soul. The LORD will guard your going out and your coming in From this time forth and forever.”
‭‭Psalms‬ ‭121:3-8‬ ‭

Potty Training Mode

  At two and five months, Catalina is officially the longest in diapers among my five kids. I liked those Huggies Pull-ups so dang much, I delayed potty training her. But a week after the Christmas and New Year’s activities died down, I decided it was time. There was no more putting this off. Her younger cousin was already potty-trained! 

So I did what I have commonly done with all my other children. During the day, she wore underpants instead of diapers. Did she pee on the floor? You betcha! Did we have to do a lot of mopping and soaping of the floors! Uh-huh! 
This phase usually takes a week to two weeks. It is about conditioning a child to recognize that the pee has to go somewhere appropriate and the floor is not it. Furthermore, she finally gets to feel what it is like to be wet. With her Huggies that always worked well to keep her dry, she didn’t experience this. 

Every time she had an accident, I would tell her (or anyone else who saw it happen), “You have to wee wee in the toilet.” (And poop!) 
Furthermore, a great trick has been to anticipate when she might need to use the toilet. Every hour was a good start. We would sit her on the toilet seat and encourage her to urinate even if she didn’t ask to.

Amazingly, after about a week and a half, she finally got it. And now she asks to pee in the toilet. Pooping has been a little more challenging. But she’s done it a couple of times, too. I usually personify her fecal matter. Edric thinks I am crazy when I say, “Catalina, the poop wants to go into the toilet. That’s his home. And he wants to be there with his friend.” (If there’s more than one “banana” fellow. How do I explain all of this without being gross?!) 

Well, Catalina now has a dialogue with me about Mr. Friend going to be with his other friend when she is about to do number 2. Edric may think my methods are crazy but it is helping her get more comfortable about using the toilet for number 2. It’s a girl thing! We are relational. 

Anyway, toilet training success has always happened at the 24 month mark for my kids. And I am so glad that Catalina has adjusted to “phase 1” — ask to be brought to the toilet to pee or poop. Better late than never. 

Phase 2 will be removing diapers when we are out of the home. Phase 3 will be taking them off for night time sleeps. Challenge, challenge! 

  I do have to give credit to Huggies for their pull-ups which made it so much easier to rush Catalina to the toilet and get them off so she could sit on the seat just in time. This has been especially helpful in the mornings when she wakes up with her Huggies on and then she still asks to use the potty. 

By the way, I skip the whole miniature toilet thing. I had one and tried it wih two of my kids. Who wants to have to clean that thing out! It was much simpler to get one of those small cushion seats that attach to the top of a toilet seat so my kids don’t fall in. This has happened! And this is an awful way to build potty-confidence and security! 

I will miss the diaper-butt look…the kind where Catalina wears leggings or pjs that look all bubbly at the bum and then taper down to the ankles. Soooo cute! But it’s time. And thankfully, these tactics are working just like they did with my other four.  

 

Highlights of 2015

 

Before January gets really busy, I would like to thank the Lord for the year that was and thank you, my readers, for taking the time to visit this blog. Your comments, messages, and prayers have been a blessing to me, and a motivation to keep writing whenever I get lazy or tired. Many of you have come up to me in person, too, to take hold of my arm and whisper that this site has been a part of your life, and you can’t imagine how your words have brought me joy.

I slowed down a little bit this year with writing, primarily because it felt like our family lived two years in one this 2015. This was probably the most hectic year I’ve ever survived. Writing kind of took a backseat at times to give way to motherhood and wife duties, homeschooling, ministry, work, speaking, traveling, or much needed rest. But this site is still important to me and I haven’t lost the desire or drive to keep using this site as a means to reach out to people and talk about what God is doing in my life, marriage and parenting. This is what keeps me pressing on.

Indeed, He did much in 2015. I would even call it the best year I have ever lived. God is amazing in this way. Every year that I walk with Him, every year that I give to Him turns into the best year. This doesn’t mean that my family and I are free from problems or crises, but it does mean that His grace and faithfulness abound.

These were my personal highlights of 2015 and I hope that going through these will remind you that God is a loving Father who knows the needs of his children, the desires of their hearts, the purposes He has called them to, the mistakes they make, and the correcting that is painful but necessary along the way.

Our family capped off 2014 and welcomed 2015 with a trip to the U.S., where we survived a month without household help, the cold, and learned to serve each other through sleepless nights and endless chores. We came back to Manila in the second week of January recharged and ready to jump into 2015.

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One of my first challenges was running in a 21K, which I thought was going to be a killer but Edric and I got through it by God’s grace! (I actually finished ahead of him which was another surprise but I couldn’t have run it without him so he helped me “beat” him.)

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Soon after we had our family commercial for Cetaphil which was an unexpected blessing. Catalina acted up a couple of times which is why she wasn’t in the final video edit but they included her in the print materials. Edan actually had a fever that started the day of the shoot (look at the photo below and his eyes), but he was a real trooper and the team behind the production was very easy to work with. It’s been a privilege to be brand ambassadors for a product line we really believe in and use as a family.

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Shortly after, Meg Magazine featured my testimony. They asked me to talk about how God brought healing to my life.

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Our homeschooling had its highlights, too. Edan discovered an interest in botany. He grew his carnivorous plants for a season. Unfortunately they eventually died which was a lowlight but he continues to be interested in animals and plants. Looks like we will be buying more carnivorous plants again this year!

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Elijah graduated from elementary and moved on to high school! This opened a new chapter in our homeschooling, especially for me! More grace, strength, and wisdom needed from the Lord!

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Titus took his first achievement test and did well! He also excellent at math this year which I didn’t even know was a strong point for him. But praise God. He knows that I’m not the best math teacher. I also discovered that Titus has a God-given musical talent. He started harmonising at the age of 6 and taught himself to do this!

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My fourth child, Tiana, started to read which was a big milestone!

 

 Catalina, my youngest, became a real a chatterbug. She grew in her ability to express herself and comprehend, and has showed an inclination to learn and be part of our homeschooling. She got exiled many times because she was disruptive but I hope to include her as often as possible this year.

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One of the kids’ homeschool field trips was to Costales where they learned about organic farming. God saved Ethan (my nephew on the right) from drowning, too! He got sucked down a drain and it’s a miracle that he popped out the other end and my brother was able to pull him out!

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Over the summer the boys attended Coach Siot’s basketball camp, which they will be joining again at the end of this month. They learned to push themselves physically.

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They also enrolled in Ninja Academy’s Parkour course, which has been incredibly fun for them. What boy doesn’t want to learn to scale walls, jump over bars, free fall off a ledge, and swing from ropes?

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Tiana finally made it through her ballet classes without crying through them. She turned out to be quite a graceful dancer (most probably from Edric’s side of the family).

The boys improved immensely in their violin playing.

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We also got to fix our homeschool room which made a big difference in our kids’ daily learning.

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God opened up opportunities to be featured on television to talk about homeschooling. The first was on CNN’s Mommy Hacks.

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I was also interviewed about homeschooling for Mommy Mundo’s new show which should be airing soon!

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Throughout the year, the kids spoke with us during retreats, business speaking engagements, and other ministry activities. This was a great way for them to use their communication skills to bless people.

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Our homeschool Coop gave our kids the opportunity to develop some great friendships. I also enjoyed connecting with other homeschool moms and team teaching with them. By the end of the year, when we celebrated our Christmas party, we were nearly 100 people! We had to cater the party!

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Our coop covered culinary arts, art history and theory, speech, ethics, apologetics, science, social studies, history, and it culminated with a Kid’s Praise musical thanks to the talented moms who contributed their expertise for directing, teaching dance, singing, and designing the set. The kids performed for an audience of underprivileged children at Revelation Church in Sta. Mesa.

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TMA Homeschool did some much needed expanding this year. We did several roadshows to connect with homeschoolers around the Philippines…

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TMA Homeschool also moved into its new office to help serve parents better, and Learning Plus, our homeschool bookstore, opened to provide curriculum and homeschool-related materials to parents. Our guests from the U.S., Mike Donnelly of Homeschool Legal Defense Association, and Davis and Rachel Carman of Apologia Press graced the ribbon cutting.

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The portal, Homeschooling Solutions, became available for families who can’t come to the Learning Plus Bookstore because they live farther away or out of the country. Materials are delivered within 48 hours. A lot of non-TMA Homeschool families used this site for their homeschooling needs.

We had two big homeschool conferences this year. Set Them Up for Success and Ready for the World, where we partnered with Manila Workshops ,  The Learning Basket and HAPI. These events brought the homeschool community together.

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On the Family Ministry front, God provided an amazing team to mount three very special events —  The Before and After I D seminar for engaged and newly married couples, Family and Finance, and Counterflow. We intend to make these events a yearly thing for young couples and families who want to know more about biblical marriage, finance, and parenting.

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Here’s a super big one which was made possible only by God’s amazing grace! My book, When A Good God Allows Rape, got published and was launched at the Manila International Book Fair by OMF Lit Publishing. It’s now available in bookstores around the country like National Bookstore, Pages, OMF Lit, and as a online ebook via Amazon, buqo, and others.

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Writing the book opened doors for me to talk more about the Lord. On CNN Philippines’ Real Talk the hosts devoted the entire 45 minutes to asking me questions about my book and my faith in Christ! I was thrilled! My dream for this book is that it will inspire people to follow Jesus. May He get all the glory!

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We had some favourite family photoshoots over the year. The first was done by Mayad Studios, who ventured into lifestyle photography with their Mayad Beginnings. They captured our family so naturally. 

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Another one was done by Alex Adiaz, which we also appreciated very much. He shot this one in our backyard.

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Another super highlight was Elijah getting baptized. 

 Yet another personal favourite of 2015 was how God worked in our Thursday couples’ group. We grew closer to the Lord and to one another, and most of us got to attend The Executive Couple’s Retreat in Baguio Country Club, where we learned and re-learned marriage principles. Some of us also served by facilitating other couples’ groups.

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As a group, we put together a surprise wedding for the Avelinos. This really knit our hearts together in a special way.

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Our bigger discipleship group family grew, too! Unfortunately we didn’t get to see everyone as often as we wanted to because we moved far from the area where we used to meet every week. But, we got together for “trimester” fellowships. These people are our extended spiritual family for life and we love them dearly!

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The year had some sad turns. Steve, who was like family, died tragically a day before he turned 30. My grandfather, angkong to us, passed away at 96. Both knew the Lord so we shall see them again, but it was difficult to lose both of them.

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We didn’t do too well in the pet department. We lost three of our Siamese cats – one committed suicide off the top of our roof, and two got run over by crazy drivers. Our Myna bird fell over in its cage and expired, and several of our fish were found floating lifeless in their tank. We also had to give away two dogs to more deserving and caring owners. (They are still alive and much happier now.) We hope to have less tragedies with our animals in 2016.

  
Our family also lost a very loyal and hard working household help who went to work abroad. We gave her our full blessing and support but she continues to be missed.

A definite high was celebrating the wedding of Edric’s sister, Danie to Vince Valdepenas. 

(null)(null)I started sewing dresses this year. I sewed the dress I wore for the wedding and made 6 yards of mistakes in the process! Experience is the best teacher! Thankfully, the material was only P80/yard. Ssh.

Another endorsement fell into our laps when we were asked to do an online commercial for Vernel Fabric Softener as a family. We love these family endorsements! We are so thankful! It’s an undeserved bonus from God whenever we are asked to do these things.

 (null)The year ended with a number of parties and engagements (my last count was about 20) but my favourite part was being with family (Edric’s side and my side). The Mendozas were almost complete for Christmas this year. The Tan-Chis most definitely were which was extra special for all of us.

We left a spot for Edric’s sister, Nicky, who was terribly missed.

My sister, Carolyn and her husband, Joel, were MIA in this photo because she gave birth over the holidays. But we were together for opening presents on December 26th.

 

 

I am a pretty simple gal. Edric and I always have a lot going on, but my best memories of the year were the quiet ones… being at home, enjoying our house (we finally completed a year in it), exploring the outdoors as a family, getting to know our kids better and growing closer to one another, playing board games, curling up on the couch for some me-time, watching movies, going on dates with Edric, eating around our kitchen table…These are the moments that made up the best of 2015 for me.

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 When I take stock of this year, I am thoroughly amazed at God’s hand in everything. There’s no success mentioned here that can be attributed to Edric or myself. Everything that happened that was good was due to God’s grace. Everything that happened that was unfortunate was part of his grand plan. 

I’m posting this in the middle of our fasting week as a church, while I am praying for God’s direction and leading for 2016. A few days ago I began by asking Him, “Lord what is your will for me this year?” I expected answers like, “Say yes to this speaking engagement or say no to this one,” or, “Pursue this venture,” or, “Write another book,” or, “Do this for your homeschooling,” etc. Instead, this was the answer I received:

“He who has My commandments and keeps them is the one who loves Me, and he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and will disclose Myself to him.” John 14:21

“If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done fore. My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be My disciples. Just as the Father has loved Me, I have also loved you; abide in My love. If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love; just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love. These things I have spoken to you so that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full.” John 15:7-11

We all want to experience a life of joy. I certainly do. And sometimes I mistakenly think that what I do with my abilities will determine how great a year I will have. But God simplified it for me when he said, “Love Me. Abide in My Love. Obey My commandments.” This is the path to a life of joy, a year of joy!

So my new year’s resolution is not a long list of things I would like to do or avoid. Instead it is dedicating 2016 to loving God, and abiding in His love by obeying His commands. How does God want you to live your 2016?

 

 

 

Peanuts and an Apology

  
My husband, Edric, and I invite our children to correct us and tell us how to improve. We don’t always recognize character areas where we are weak so it helps to have our children identify these areas. They watch our examples closely and they have tender consciences, too. So we benefit from their input. It isn’t always easy to receive their correction but when we do they appreciate our humility, and it teaches them to do the same. 
  
Two days ago, Edric and I hosted a yayas and drivers party in our home. We were running late for it because we came from another engagement. Strangely, when we entered our village, the guard stopped us. He didn’t let us through because he failed to see our sticker. Edric rolled down his window, annoyed, and said, “We have a sticker!” (Translated from Tagalog.) 

His tone conveyed irritation and he pointed his finger at the sticker like, yo dude, do you know who I am?! Of course he didn’t say that, but the kids latched on to his tone. The guard embarrassingly lifted the barricade.

The car atmosphere turned quiet for a bit and then our two oldest sons, Elijah blurted out, “Dad, you sounded entitled when you said that,” followed by Edan, “Yah, it wasn’t very nice.”

I could see the tension in Edric’s face. On the one hand, he wanted to acknowledge what the kids were saying but on the other hand, he didn’t appreciate the inconvenience the guard caused him when he was rushing to our place. But I praise God that he let the Holy Spirit convict his heart and he replied, “Oh really? It really sounded like that? I am sorry, kids.” The kids forgave him and we proceeded home.

Unbeknownst to them, Edric returned to the guard later on and apologized to him. He also brought him peanuts to make up for his haughtiness. I didn’t find out till the evening when he told me, while the kids found out the next day.

He explained how he drove to the guard house to ask for forgiveness and how the guard politely accepted his apology and gladly took the peanuts! The kids’ eyes lit up with relief. It mattered to them that he humbled himself. In Elijah’s words, “I knew dad was wrong so when I found out he said sorry to the guard I felt better. It was the right thing to do.”

Edric and I have our failings and our kids are well aware of our imperfections. But I praise God for softening Edric’s heart so he could show the kids and me an example of love and humility.

Our children hunger to see an authentic faith. They are allergic to hypocrisy. Although they don’t expect us to be without fault, they do hope that what we do is consistent with the things we teach them. So if Edric and I talk about loving God, we need to demonstrate this with our actions. If we fail to, we need to right our wrongs as best as we can so we don’t harden our children’s hearts towards following Christ.

A lot of times it is the manner in which we treat people who serve us, such as waiters, salespersons, janitors, guards, drivers, yayas and the like that tell our children what being a follower of Jesus is all about. Do we respect them? Do we regard them with dignity? Do we show them love? Or, do we act entitled, demanding, unappreciative, and basically like the world revolves around us?

Let’s model to our children what it means to love people the way God does. There are no degrees of importance to him when it comes to people. The same should be true for us so it can be true for our children.

“For though the LORD is exalted, Yet He regards the lowly, But the haughty He knows from afar.” Psalms‬ ‭138:6‬ ‭

Despedida de Soltera

The despedida de soltera is a beautiful tradition. It seems to have evolved into our version of a rehearsal dinner, although I personally feel that it is much more meaningful. Beyond the symbolism of a woman’s farewell to the single life, it is an act to show that the parents of the bride approve of the groom — that the couple have their blessing. 

Having grown up in a family where my parents counseled many couples before and after their marriages, I knew firsthand the importance of receiving the blessing of your parents before getting married. Most of the relationships who ended up in bad shape were those who didn’t seek the approval of their parents for their marriage. This shouldn’t surprise us because the Bible says, “HONOR YOUR FATHER AND MOTHER (which is the first commandment with a promise), SO THAT IT MAY BE WELL WITH YOU, AND THAT YOU MAY LIVE LONG ON THE EARTH.” Ephesians‬ ‭6:2-3‬ ‭

The decision to get married involves aspects beyond saying yes to the person you love most in this life. It’s a union that fuses families, cultures, traditions, and beliefs. Every soon-to-be or want-to-be-married person needs to consider the gravity of this choice. After the high of a wedding ceremony and the interlude of the honeymoon stage, reality is the ever after. Two worlds collided. Two histories. Two people with values, character traits, and perspectives that were predominantly shaped by the homes they came from. Will they complement or frustrate each other? 

When Edric and I were dating, I spent a lot of meaningful time with his family and he did the same with mine. We learned about each other’s backgrounds and sought to honor each other’s parents. Thankfully, we grew up in similar contexts, too. We had the same answers to questions such as, What is the foundation of marriage, What roles should a husband and wife fulfill, How will we raise our children, What will our spending habits be like, and so on. This minimized the conflicts we had as a couple. 

The majority of our issues at the beginning of our marriage revolved around personality differences and selfishness, but I thank God they were not fundamental problems, namely spiritual incompatibilities. We both came from families who loved and honored God, and sought to obey him. The added bonus is that today, we enjoy the company of each other’s families. I praise God that our families continue to represent and encourage the values and important traditions that we treasure ourselves. It’s all by God’s grace that this is so.

As I witnessed my sister-in-law’s Despedida de Soltera two weeks ago, the intimate affair reminded me that the family you marry into can be a blessing or a curse. There was an atmosphere of joy and harmony during the gathering between two families that night. I especially liked what Vince’s parents said about my sister-in-law, Danie…that they already loved her and treated her like a daughter. How affirming it must be for a future daughter in law to hear that. And now she belongs to a family that has wholeheartedly embraced her for who she is. What a blessing!

Photos of the Despedida de Soltera, styled by my creative friend, Maja, of Passion Cooks Catering (photos courtesy of Starfish Media):

   

  

  

  

  

  

  

  

  

  

        
 

For those of us who are already married and failed to start off our marriages by honoring our parents or in-laws, let us not  lose heart. God is a redeemer. He is an expert at fixing our mistakes. He is also a restorer. He can heal what is broken in our relationships with our parents or in-laws. The key is humility — humility before Him and others — prayer for reconciliation, and seeking after Him.

May these passages minister to you:

“You younger men, likewise, be subject to your elders; and all of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, for GOD IS OPPOSED TO THE PROUD, BUT GIVES GRACE TO THE HUMBLE. Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time, casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you.”1 Peter‬ ‭5:5-7‬ ‭

“FOR THE EYES OF THE LORD ARE TOWARD THE RIGHTEOUS, AND HIS EARS ATTEND TO THEIR PRAYER, BUT THE FACE OF THE LORD IS AGAINST THOSE WHO DO EVIL.” ‭‭1 Peter‬ ‭3:12‬ ‭